Meteorology and natural disaster websites

This article begins with a discussion of meteorology Web sites, followed by sites on natural disasters.

The Glossary from the American Meteorological Society ( ) contains 12,000 terms and is an excellent starting point for research into meteorology. It defines meteorology as the study of the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of the earth’s atmosphere, including the related effects at the airearth boundary over both land and the oceans or, in popular usage, as the underlying science of weather and weather forecasting.

Weather refers to the state of the atmosphere, mainly with respect to its effects upon life and human activities. As distinguished from climate, weather consists of short-term (minutes to days) variations in the atmosphere, while climate is the slowly varying aspects of the atmospherehydrosphereland surface system.

The Yahoo! directory section on Meteorology ( ) is divided into 26 categories, including biometeorology, cryosphere, oceanography and paleoclimatology. The Google directory section on Meteorology ( ) is divided into 17 categories, including aviation weather, forensic, urban climate and weather phenomena.

The Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre (ASTHC) at the University of Melbourne has a Web publication Federation and Meteorology (August 2001, ) which contains a general introduction and 23 articles by different authors, including The weather prophets and The story of the RAAF Meteorological Service. Many photographs are included.

Debunk those meteorological myths at the Bad Meteorology Web site, which is dedicated to teachers who want to get it right ( ). An example of a myth Alistair Fraser debunks on the site is: Raindrops are shaped like teardrops – weep over this artistic licentiousness.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology ( ) has a Web page of information for teachers, with specific experiments and printable worksheets. They list other sites particularly useful to students or teachers, at

The Global Health Disaster Network provides free online lectures on a range of topics. There is one on tsunamis prepared by experts from the US, Russia and Iran (

Oxfam ( ) provides resources for teaching children about natural disasters, including lesson plans, worksheets and peoples stories.

You can test drive an online Emergency Management subject from Charles Sturt University at .

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology ( ) has a range of information, including:
brochures and catalogues (HTML, PDF or print, which can be requested online)

  • news
  • other weather services (e.g. weather charts, radar images)
  • climate services (e.g. seasonal outlooks, climate averages)
  • hydrology services (e.g. flood warning service, water resources)
  • indigenous weather knowledge.

Figure 1: Australian Bureau of Meteorology Home Page

MetService ( ) provides weather maps and warnings for New Zealand. The New Zealand Antarctic Institute provides information about the weather in Antarctica ( ). You can find weather forecasts for specific places at .

The Australian Severe Weather Association ( ) records severe weather activity and provides information about membership. Australian Weather and Storm Chasing ( ) by Michael Thomson, has photos of clouds, lightning, hail, rainbows and sunsets, and a diary of storm chasing activity. Lightning Boy ( ) provides instructions for photographing lightning. Most of us avoid storms, but for others this seems to be a hobby!

Weather Cams
Worldwide Weather Cams from Live Weather Images ( ) provides links to weather cams from an alphabetical list of place names starting with Adriatic, Andorra and Antarctica. There are 24 links for Australia, although some of them (e.g. Thredbo) are dead. The links dont always take you direct to a Web cam. For instance, the Ulladulla link takes you to Milton Ulladulla Mollymook Online ( ), where the left-hand navigation leads to town, surf and weather cams.

The High Plains Regional Climate Center in Nebraska ( ) lists weather cams throughout the world. The category Australia-Tasmania-New Zealand lists three in Melbourne, and one each in Perth, Sydney and Hobart. If you are planning a bushwalk in the Blue Mountains, you can check the weather in Katoomba, at . A Web search for the name of a place, and the phrase weather cams, will also often retrieve an appropriate site.

The Weather Channel ( ) provides a wide range of maps in the categories Work, Rest and Play; World Regions; and Map Type. The first category seems to apply only to Britain, and includes Aches and Pains, Air Stagnation, and Aviation. The second category is divided into 12 regions, including Hemispheric, while the third includes Humidity, Ocean, and Precipitation.

The Bureau of Meteorology ( ) has a range of maps, including Australian climate maps (rainfall and temperature), sea surface temperature maps, and solar radiation maps.

Figure 2: Bureau of Meteorology Weather Warnings

Natural Disasters
After a disaster such as the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, many people need to find information urgently  to find out about people who have been in the disaster area, to find out how they can offer financial or other help, or just to keep informed. Much of this sort of information is ephemeral, but is well promoted when it is most needed. Many of the examples in this section are based on the Indian Ocean tsunami.

George Pararas-Carayannis, a retired scientist who was involved in tsunami research at the University of Hawaii for many years, maintains a Web site with a wealth of information on natural disasters, including disasters in Oceania ( ) and tsunamis in ancient times ( ).

Search for recent news on Google ( ) and Yahoo ( , and select News) or specific media sites. Two articles on the scope of natural disasters are: Be prepared for the next disaster (29 December 2004, John Schauble, ) and Worlds long dance with death (January 8, Jonathan King, King puts the death toll from the recent tsunami into perspective, noting the deaths of 130,000 people in the Bangladesh floods in 1991, of 3.7 million people in the Yangtze River flood in 1931, and of 80,000 people per day of AIDS.

ResearchBuzz! provides a list of blogs created in response to the tsunami (29 December 2004, One of those listed, the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog, aka the SEA-EAT blog ( ) is regularly updated with accounts of the reconstruction (checked 31 January 2005).

Emergency Management
The Australian Emergency Management Forum provides a list of links to other emergency management sites, including federal and state government organisations, non-government associations, overseas agencies, and education providers ( ). They also provide an online booklet entitled Hazards, Disasters and Survival for Students and the Community( ). The booklet has an introduction on coping with hazards and disasters, then chapters on specific hazards, such as wildfires (called bushfires in Australia), heatwaves and cyclones. The statistics and activities annexes did not open for me.

Community Information
APCEDI (Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information) provides disaster alerts on natural disasters ( ), mainly for use by field staff of AFAP (Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific) and FSPI (Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific International). It is funded by AusAID (See Net Note, Online Currents, v.19 n.9, p. 36).

ReliefWeb ( ) is the global hub for time-critical humanitarian information on Complex Emergencies and Natural Disasters and is updated many times a day. You can browse through latest updates and a list of maps, or search by country.

CIDI (Centre for International Disaster Information; provides situation reports after natural disasters, along with guidelines for providing assistance. These include articles on appropriate donations.

The Librarians Index to the Internet ( ) has already indexed a number of pages about the Indian Ocean tsunami, as well as general information on natural disasters and emergency management. Google has a page dedicated to tsunami information ( ), including a list of charities that are accepting donations. Up-to-date information is also available through blogs (e.g. ) and wikis (e.g.

Australian Volunteers International ( ) has information about volunteers needed in developing countries, including for tsunami relief and redevelopment. Specific technical and language skills are often required. There is also information at the World Volunteer Web (

Centrelink (e.g. provides information about assistance to Australians affected by natural disasters.

You can register at the Smart Traveller site ( ) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, if you are going overseas. This makes it easier for the government to trace you if there is a natural disaster. You can also check travel advisories at this site.

All sites were accessed on 31 January 2005.

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